Letters week of Jan. 18, 2007



Rabbi Opened Himself Up to Critical Commentary

I 'd like to know how Anti-Defamation League regional director Barry Morrison can claim that cartoonist Tom Stiglich "got his facts wrong" (City & Suburb: "Cartoon Riles Readers and Officials," Jan. 4).

As quoted in your story, Morrison said that Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky simply wanted to add a menorah to the holiday decorations in Seattle's airport.

But that's not the entire story.

In an article printed in the Seattle Times, Harvey Grad, who serves as the rabbi's attorney, stated that a lawsuit was in the works to make the airport erect a menorah. When informed that the lawsuit was forthcoming, the Port Commission of Seattle decided to take drastic action and remove all decorations from the airport.

I agree that the removal of everything was a rash decision, and that it is perfectly right for the rabbi to demand a menorah. However, what can the rabbi expect when legal action is brought into the equation? If he truly only wanted the airport to put up a menorah, couldn't he think of any better solution than a lawsuit?

What is also not mentioned is how much discussion occurred before the lawsuit was suggested. Did anyone even attempt to talk with the Port Commission, or was it simply easier for Bogomilsky and his attorney to make threats?

While the opinions of Mr. Stiglich's editor could have been better stated, he was right in saying that the cartoon in question was not anti-Semitic.

By his own actions, the rabbi left himself open to criticism.
Patrick McNally


Don't Waste Teen Time With Overtly 'Sexy' Topics

Kudos to Alan Luxenberg on his article (Opinions: "Seek a Serious Future? Then Get Serious About Educating Jewish Children!" Dec. 21).

Having worked as a Jewish adolescent educator for more than 15 years, too often the response to teens' overburdened schedules is to provide an educational experience focused primarily on open-ended discussions of "sexy" topics.

From elementary school onward, our students are accustomed to considerable expectations from teachers in their secular studies. Our teens are succeeding in a plethora of advanced-level college-prep track courses. Simultaneously, too often we do not challenge them at all in their Jewish education.

Our students are explicitly and implicitly asking us to "prove" that Judaism is worthwhile and relevant. What message do we send when there is such a drastic dichotomy between their secular and Jewish educational experiences?

The reality is that teenagers don't want their valuable time wasted with a program devoid of depth.
Ari Y. Goldberg
Jewish Community High School of Gratz College
Melrose Park


Gerlach: A Supporter of Israel and All Citizens

Joann Erfer's unjustified comments about U.S. Rep. Jim Gerlach are wrong, uninformed and inaccurate (Letters: "Gerrymandered District Enabled Gerlach to Win," Dec. 28).

First, she claimed that he ran in a district "built for him, so he wouldn't have to worry about any Democratic rivals." If that were the case, he would not have won — twice — by very narrow margins.

Second, Gerlach has proved his concern for Lower Merion through his frequent campaigning here and by the many programs he's initiated and supported in Congress that benefit all of our citizens.

Third, Gerlach has been a very strong supporter of Israel. A close look at the legislation he's supported reveals a consistent pro-Israel and anti-terrorism record. His visit to Israel with his wife a few years ago served to enhance his understanding of the strategic situation there.

Finally, if Erfer truly believes that there isn't "a politician in this country that doesn't support Israel," then she should look more closely at the voting records of all members of Congress.
Lenore H. Forsted


Gerlach Understands the Dangers in the World

JoAnn Erfer was off-base in her recent letter criticizing Rep. Jim Gerlach (Letters: "Gerrymandered District Enabled Gerlach to Win," Dec. 28).

Ms. Erfer complained that Gerlach unfairly ran on a platform that included support for Israel, and baldly asserted that he "neither cares for Lower Merion nor the Jewish people who live there."

As a constituent who accompanied him on a trip to Israel, I can say with certainty that Gerlach cares about Israel, about Jews in Lower Merion and about all his constituents.

With the abhorrent rhetoric from Hezbollah, Hamas and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, there's no shortage of real enemies of the Jewish people around the globe.

We in the 6th District are fortunate to have such a good, honorable public servant who understands the dangerous world in which we live, and is willing to act to defend us all.
Len Feldman


Correcting the Record on Sequence of Events

In the Torah-portion column for Parshat Vayigash (Religion & Ethics: "The Time Is Now — Draw Close to Yourself," Dec. 28), there was an error in the reading of events.

Rabbi Jill L. Maderer writes: "Within the plot of the story, Judah is approaching his long lost brother, Joseph, in order to secure sustenance for the family." That is indeed what all the brothers were trying to do, but in the previous parshah.

What's going on in the first verse of Vayigash is that Judah is approaching Joseph to secure the release of Benjamin, whom Joseph is threatening to take prisoner for "stealing" the royal chalice, by offering himself up instead, and also, according to Rashi, to threaten to make war on not only Joseph, but the rest of Egypt.

The point is that by the time Judah begins this dialogue, the brothers had already secured "sustenance for the family" once before, when they first went down to Egypt because of the famine in Canaan.
Joshua Runyan
Director, News Division
Chabad on Campus Foundation
Ramat Beit Shemesh Aleph


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